No, this isn’t a story about releasing a whale (that’s Free Willy). It’s a blog inspired by the audiobook I was listening to today – Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo. At first I mistook this book for a very lightweight story about a few ordinary people and the trivia of their lives in a small American town. But the book has really grown on me, especially since I figured out that it’s actually about free will – the power we have to take control of our lives and determine our own destinies.

Various characters in the book have limited their ability to exercise their free will, allowing themselves to be controlled by carnal urges, circumstances, parents, spouses, friends, bosses, behaviour patterns learned in childhood, or in the main character’s case, what he calls a “stupid streak” – he knows even while he is doing something that it is stupid, and what the consequences will be, but despite his awareness he seems powerless to stop himself from doing it.

It made me think deeply about my own actions and reactions, and how much they are conditioned responses to old stimuli, rather than being well thought out and rational responses to situations. My own kind of stupid streak.

But it also made me realize that this is yet another reason why I am drawn to rowing across oceans – when you do something so totally outside of normal life, it somehow frees you from those tired old behaviour patterns because all the stimuli are so utterly different. It allows you to redefine yourself in some way, discovering strengths you never knew you had. It breaks old habits and allows new ones to form. It’s an opportunity to drop character traits that are not helpful and develop some that have lain dormant.

Out here, totally alone on my life capsule of a boat, I have almost unlimited power to exercise free will. The challenge, of course, is taking back all those positive new habits and maintaining them back on dry land, back amongst the same old stimuli. That’s the hard part..

I’ll leave the last word to the eminently quotable George Bernard Shaw:

Life is not about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself.

Other stuff:

Position at 2140 2nd August Pacific Time, 0440 3rd August UTC: 23 47.518’N, 141 17.011’W.

The last shift today was fantastic. Almost fun. For the very first time since I left San Francisco I was able to row straight downwind, the wind and swell going my way. The wind, which usually roars in my left ear, went quiet as it was blocked by the bulk of the aft cabin. The red ensign flag, which has fluttered every which way during this voyage, flapped cheerfully towards me. The boat felt light and easy to row. More of the same, please!

Messages: thanks for all the suggestions about ladders, steps, etc for getting back on board after barnacle-scrubbing expeditions. Let me just clarify. I already have grablines all the way around the boat which give me a good leg-up into the cockpit. The challenge then was wriggling my way around the oars – main and spares – which are stowed at the sides of the cockpit, doubling up as guardrails. I could, of course, have moved them out of the way before entering the water, but it was easier to leave them where they were. It probably only took me a couple of minutes to get back on board – it just seemed longer because I had the video camera running and wanted to get to it before a wave did.

Christopher wanted to know if the podcast will continue in Hawaii: we will do at least a couple after I arrive. Leo is hoping to be there for the occasion.

Hi to Bob and Eva – the dehydrated buckwheat crackers are fantastic! My favourites.

I will look out for the raft JUNK. It would be amazing – although unlikely – if we were able to have a mid-ocean rendezvous. Do they have communications equipment on board? Do they know I am out here?

Karyn – I didn’t think to bring shampoo formulated for saltwater. My priority was to bring organic. But maybe I’ll try that in saltwater. At the moment I’m just trying not to think about my hair. Baseball caps are wonderful things.

Hi to Chris Bone of OceansWatch. Hope to hear more about Vanuatu!

And thanks to everybody else who has written in – and those who haven’t, but have been following the blogs, podcasts and Twitters. It really is heartwarming to know that so many people are interested in following my adventure and my random ramblings. Thank you!

Click here to view Day 70 of the Atlantic Crossing 8 February: Message from Monty – the school teddy bear accompanying Roz on the voyage. This time she has Chirpy the Robin with her. (See June 3rd 2008 for picture.)

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